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Jobless total at eight-year low in boost for new Government

Published 20/07/2016

The new Government has been given some good news on the jobs front with another fall in unemployment and a record number of people in work.

The employment rate reached a record high of 74.4%, with 31.7 million people in work in the three months to May - 176,000 more than the previous quarter.

A total of 1.65 million people are unemployed, a fall of 54,000 over the quarter and 201,000 compared with a year ago, giving a jobless rate of 4.9%.

The jobless total is now the lowest for eight years, while the rate is the lowest since the summer of 2005.

But the claimant count, including those on Jobseeker's Allowance, increased by 400 last month to 759,100, the fourth consecutive monthly rise.

Job vacancies were 10,000 down, to 747,000, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics showed.

Average earnings increased by 2.3% in the year to May, 0.3% up on the previous month.

ONS statistician Nick Palmer said: "The labour market continued to strengthen in spring 2016, with record employment and the unemployment rate at its lowest since 2005.

"None of today's headline figures cover the period since the result of the EU referendum became known."

Other figures showed that the number of people classed as economically inactive has fallen by 46,000 to 8.8 million, the lowest for 13 years.

The figure, which includes those looking after a relative, on long-term sick leave, or who have given up looking for work, showed a record low of 5.5 million for women.

Full-time employees worked an average of 37.5 hours a week, slightly more than a year ago.

New Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said: "This remarkable set of figures shows that there are more people in work than at any other point in our history, which is fantastic news as we build a Britain that works for everybody, not just the privileged few.

"We've entered a period of significant change, but when it comes to our jobs market we're in a position of strength, with over 2.6 million more people in work than there were in 2010, the number of workless households cut to an all-time low, 750,000 vacancies in the economy and wages rising too.

"Our job now is to build on this success story so that everybody can benefit from the opportunities that are being created regardless of who they are or where they come from. Encouragingly, employment has risen in all regions and nations of the UK over the last year."

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said: "Across Wales, a buoyant economy and changes to welfare are creating a climate where businesses and entrepreneurs feel confident to expand and take on staff.

"Brexit will mean significant challenges but entrepreneurs thrive on change. Business leaders are telling me they are optimistic about the future and excited about export opportunities further afield.

"We are making the UK trade and industry team available to help Welsh businesses explore new markets and demonstrate that Wales is open for business."

The pound surged higher after the cheery jobs figures, rising one cent to 1.32 US dollars and one cent to 1.20 euros.

Sterling was also helped as a Bank of England report revealed that, despite a rise in business uncertainty, it saw "no evidence of a sharp slowing of activity".

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: "If Theresa May is serious about supporting working people, we need to see serious action on tackling low pay and investing in the high-skilled, high-wage jobs our economy needs.

"Why is the Government refusing to track social security claimants who leave Jobseeker's Allowance without knowing if they are in work? What impact is forced low-paid self-employment having on the claimant count? These figures only tell half the story."

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